One of the greatest perks of streaming services is our ability to use them while we’re on the move. With data plans we can stay up to date on our favourite shows during our daily commute, or be prepared to watch the latest movie that’s caught our eye on a long car trip (assuming you’re not the driver). Long gone are the days of built-in dvd players, and now we have seen the rise of iPads and phones as our new portable cinema screens.
As wonderful as this is though, it’s worth asking the question - how much data does streaming a film on Netflix use? An enjoyable experience at the time, but depending on your data plan, it could cause quite the shock when the bill rolls around and you’ve blown through your data allowance and then some.
Understanding data usage
If you’ve ever had to pay for a phone or internet bill, chances are you have some concept of data usage and how it works. The key points we all know here is that data is not free. Depending on your internet or phone plan, how much data you have access to without incurring additional charges varies, which is why so many of us are in tune with how much we’re using at any given time and keep tabs on it throughout the month. Browsing websites, downloading photos or e-books and streaming music all use data, but for the most part video uses the most data. Due to this, it’s understandable to wonder and want to understand how much data streaming a film on Netflix uses.
How much data does streaming Netflix use?
Although we would love to give you a simple number, the answer to this question is it depends. There are two main factors that come into this - the length of the program you’re watching, and the resolution of the video. It stands to reason that spending 30 minutes watching an episode of your favourite show will not use the same amount of data as watching a 2 hour film. Netflix offers different video qualities, which means the amount of data you use streaming them can change.
Below are the stream quality tiers, and their estimated data use per hour:
Low resolution: as the name suggests, this is the simplest tier for stream quality. Particularly friendly if you are nearing the end of your monthly budget, this tier uses roughly 0.3GB per hour per device. The picture may not be crystal clear, but you can still enjoy your content as needed without breaking the bank.
Medium resolution: offering a relatively standard viewing experience and image quality, medium resolution can use up to 0.7GB per hour so you will enjoy a higher quality image than the low resolution tier, and can expect to use slightly more data per hour to go with this.
Standard definition: the true standard-definition experience, this tier can use up to 1GB per hour of video.
High definition: as expected, high definition delivers on image quality and overall performance, but in order to enjoy this viewing experience you will be using approximately 3GB per hour of video watched.
Ultra high definition: the top of the class, ultra high definition delivers the best possible viewing experience and image quality and as expected, uses the most data in the process - up to 7GB per hour per device.
Netflix also offers an auto option, which is set to adjust automatically to your current internet connection speed in order to deliver the highest possible quality viewing experience.
Is there a way to change how much data Netflix uses?
If you love watching Netflix but want to reduce the amount of data you’re using to stream it, you have a few options you can look into.
Update Your Resolution Settings
Based on the key factor that influences how much data is used as your stream, the easiest fix is to update your default video resolution in your system preferences.
You can do this using a few simple steps:
- Go to your account page
- Choose your profile
- Find ‘Playback Settings’ and select ‘Change’
- From here you can choose any of the above data usage settings
- Hit save
It’s that simple!
Update Your Mobile Data Usage Settings
If you want a solution that only changes your viewing experience on mobile specifically (since the above impacts the entire account, so if you’re watching at home on WiFi you’ll get the same image quality you’ve selected to help save your data plan) you can update the mobile data usage settings specifically.
Netflix actually offers four different mobile data usage settings:
Automatic: Balancing video quality and data usage, this tends to enable watching about 4 hours per GB of data
WiFi Only: The prevents you from streaming on mobile data at all (which may be handy if you have children with mobile devices)
Save data: As the name suggests, this aims to help you save data so caps out at about 6 hours per GB of data
Maximum data: Generally recommended for those on an unlimited data plan, this delivers the highest possible quality for your device and can use up to 1GB of data per 20 minutes or more.
You can adjust your preferred settings in the same way you can update your preferred resolution setting.
- In the Netflix app select ‘More’ or ‘Profile’
- Select App Settings
- Navigate to Video Playback and select Cellular Data Usage
- Select your preferred setting
Download and Watch Offline
The Netflix app also allows you to download a select catalogue of shows and movies, so you can download these ahead of time and view them without needing to use your data. If you download these using your data the usage will be around the same though so this may not provide the relief you’re looking for.
All in all, the answer to the question how much data does streaming a movie on Netflix use is more complicated than a simple answer translated into a number of gigabytes. What you’re watching, for how long and the image resolution all play a role in how much data is required for you to stream a movie on Netflix. If your mobile plan needs an upgrade though, view our range of plans online at Southern Phone now.